Tue, Apr 30, 2024

Penetration Testing as a Service (PTaaS): What is it and How Can it Benefit Your Organization?

Penetration testing as a service (PTaaS) plays a vital role in enabling organizations to mitigate enhance their cyber posture. As a hybrid security solution, it combines automation and human assessments in order to test for vulnerabilities that could be missed by legacy scanning tools.

Read on to discover what PTaaS is, what it involves, the differences between PTaaS and standard pen testing, what to look for in a penetration testing as a service vendor, and more.

What is Penetration Testing as a Service (PTaaS)

PTaaS is a form of penetration testing that combines manual and human testing on a dedicated platform, allowing IT professionals to complete point-in-time and continuous penetration tests. It enables organizations to build strong and consistent vulnerability management programs, boosting the process of identifying and addressing vulnerabilities and making it easier to prioritize and remediate security threats.

Pentesting as a service combines automation and human assessment, harnessing advanced vulnerability management and analytics. Like traditional penetration testing approaches, the human aspect of penetration testing as a service involves the expert application of the tools, techniques and procedures used by threat actors in order to uncover hidden vulnerabilities.

Through penetration testing as a service, organizations can perform assessments much more frequently, helping businesses to successfully uncover a variety of security weaknesses across different areas of their infrastructure, such as web and mobile apps, networks and APIs.

How Does PTaaS Work?

PTaaS works by providing a more agile approach to pen testing than traditional approaches. It achieves this by facilitating more frequent testing across all of an organization’s environments by enabling daily penetration tests. This can be at an even more granular level, for example, following each code change in the software development cycle.

PTaaS vendors provide dashboards that enable organizations to gain a comprehensive overview of all relevant issues at every stage of the testing process. This is usually supported with resources for understanding and addressing vulnerabilities and ensuring the effectiveness of a remediation action. Access to a personalized dashboard also enables organizations to gain more direct control of their pentesting programs than they would do with traditional pentesting solutions.

The Difference between PTaaS and Traditional Penetration Testing

While PTaaS is continuous and heavily automated, standard tests are undertaken on a point-in-time basis, simulating complex attacks through primarily manual testing. This means that while standard testing provides a valuable snapshot of vulnerabilities at one specific point-in-time, penetration testing as a service provides an ongoing and real-time perspective through a continuous approach. By bringing together the advantages of manual pen tests with automated scanning tools, this strategy ensures that new vulnerabilities are more promptly detected and addressed, reducing the likelihood of potential cyberattacks.

Unlike standard pen testing, penetration testing as a service delivers continuous scanning capabilities through automated tools in order to search through large amounts of data, alongside identifying common vulnerabilities and exposures (CVEs).

This combination of manual and automated testing allows for a more thorough and continuous security assessment. It ensures that vulnerabilities are not just identified during scheduled pen tests but are also continuously detected and addressed as they arise.

PTaaS Features

Penetration testing as a service will often cover:

Comprehensive Coverage

A good PTaaS platform should include extensive security coverage and comprehensive coverage of vulnerabilities.

Continuous Scanning

PTaaS platforms include continuous vulnerability monitoring to identify emerging risks and provide real-time updates to maintain an organization’s defenses.

Customizable Testing

A PTaaS service should provide customized testing methods and approaches to align with each organization’s particular security requirements and priorities.

Dedicated Expertise

Despite PTaaS involving the use of automated tools, a certified expert is on hand to communicate and discuss findings.

What is the PTaaS Process?

The PTaaS process will vary between vendors but usually follows a similar approach:

Stage 1: Initial Scoping and Baseline Assessment

This stage is critical for enabling the PTaaS vendor to gain a detailed overview and baseline understanding of an organization’s IT infrastructure. This is achieved through a comprehensive consultation and an automated scan in order to map its systems, applications, and network, providing an initial overview of its current security posture.

Step 2: Manual Testing and Exploitation

The human element of penetration testing as a service is critical to its success because it ensures that security issues missed by automated tools are uncovered. This is the stage at which security professionals perform manual penetration tests, carefully and safely simulating real-world attack scenarios in order to uncover attack vectors, validate identified vulnerabilities and attempt to exploit them. This is the direct application of offensive security expertise with the goal of safely and securely simulating real-world attacks.

Stage 3: Real-time Reporting

Real-time reporting is a critical aspect of PTaaS, enabling vulnerabilities to be identified and reported as soon as they are discovered. This stage ensures that organizations can swiftly address issues, minimize exposure, and also proactively remediate issues.

Stage 4: Strategic Recommendations

An effective penetration testing as a service platform should be capable of providing strategic recommendations via its summary reporting. These should provide information about the vulnerabilities uncovered, as well as key recommendations for addressing and mitigating them. They can also help support compliance audits.

Stage 5. Repeat Testing

Continuous vigilance is vital in a constantly changing threat landscape. A good PTaaS platform should enable organizations to schedule regular repeat testing focused on system upgrades. Vendors should also undertake quarterly or half-yearly manual pentests in order to uncover new vulnerabilities to ensure compliance across standards. 

The Benefits of PTaaS

Penetration testing as a service can advance an organization’s security posture in a number of ways, including:

  • Ongoing Security Management

    A key advantage of PTaaS is that, in comparison with traditional point-in-time assessments, it is continuous, allowing organizations to complete new tests, retests or even feature-specific tests as they go along.

  • Constant Access to Security Experts

    Pentesting as a service enables in-house security teams to set up constant communication channels so that key security issues are addressed in good time. In this way, vulnerabilities are identified and mitigated more quickly, preventing them from becoming a security threat in the future.

  • Reduced Costs

    PTaaS involves the automation of a range of different processes. This allows organizations to optimize their existing investments and prevents their security tools from becoming obsolete.

  • Better Adherence to Industry Standards

    Penetration testing as a service makes it easier and more effective for businesses to meet industry security standards such as SANS and OWASP.

  • Swifter Turnaround

    Unlike a standard penetration test which can take weeks to complete, PTaaS can be rolled out quickly and results actioned with a faster turnaround time.

  • Real-time Testing and Remediation

    Because testing takes place on demand with PTaaS, you benefit from being able to see different types of vulnerabilities in near real-time.

  • More Control

    Pentesting as a service enables organizations to initiate a penetration test when they need it, define their assessment scope more clearly and choose where to escalate an engagement in real time, giving them more control over their assessment program. 

The Challenges of PTaaS

For most organizations, there is no one-size-fits-all solution for achieving a more robust security posture. Pentesting as a service offers many benefits, but also presents some limitations. For example, while penetration testing as a service is fast and flexible, it is not the best option for every organization and security environment, such as testing complex industrial control systems. Another potential pitfall is that it can’t be customized for every user or business. While an out-of-the-box service might cover common vulnerabilities, adapting it to an organization’s unique risk profile can take time. Organizations with a broad-ranging or complex security environment may achieve better results with a bespoke pen test. Assessing your options and seeking advice from a trusted security partner is an important first step in choosing the most suitable type of pentesting solution for your organization.

What to Look for in a PTaaS Provider

PTaaS offers many advantages but it is critical to fully understand what is offered by your prospective vendor. This will ensure that the service you choose has all the capabilities that your organization requires.

  • A Proven Track Record

    With the security market changing all the time, ensure that you verify and confirm that your chosen provider has expertise specifically in PTaaS. As well as a good level of experience with a range of clients, ask whether they have supported organizations in your particular industry before.

  • Security Expertise

    Applying human insight through manual testing is central to the performance of penetration testing as a service , so it is vital to verify the level of dedicated security expertise that will be on hand. Check whether you will have a specific team working with you and if you will be able to call on the vendor’s security experts for support with ad hoc issues.

  • Advanced Technology

    Look into the type of dashboard offered by your potential penetration testing as a service provider. Ask about its breadth of insight, its level of detail and its usability for your in-house security teams. Check how well the dashboard tech integrates with your existing technology stack. Choose well and you could benefit from reduced costs, lower vulnerability remediation lead time and increased visibility into potential risks.

  • Actionable Reporting

    The value of penetration testing as a service lies not only in its capacity to address issues but also to deliver actionable reports that can help strengthen security defenses, inform security programs and support compliance with many types of regulatory requirements. As a result, it is essential to understand the depth and quality of the type of reporting provided by your prospective vendor.

How Kroll Can Help

Kroll’s team of CREST STAR, CRT, CCT INF and CCT APP accredited pen testers have the proven expertise to meet your specific penetration testing requirements. We will work with you to develop a program that aligns with the unique requirements of your organization. Our experts enable businesses in a range of industries to uncover and address complex vulnerabilities across their internal and external infrastructure, wireless networks, web apps, mobile apps, network builds and configurations, and more.

Kroll performs testing to the highest technical, legal and ethical standards. All our award-winning pen test services include complete post-test care, actionable outputs, prioritized remediation guidance and strategic security advice to help you make long-term improvements to your cybersecurity posture.

To learn more about how to achieve the best results from penetration testing and how our services can support your security needs, feel free to schedule a quick, obligation-free call with our experts.

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